Well, I used to laugh a lot. Before Ella died, I was very quick to find the humor in situations. If I didn’t find it, I’d try to create it. Even when Ella was in the hospital for all those months, I tried to maintain a healthy sense of humor. I told people that I either had to laugh and keep being the smartass I was born to be, or I would end up in the sitting in the corner, rocking back and forth while sucking my thumb and muttering nonsensically. Find humor or go crazy - those were the only two options I could imagine for the situation I was in.
I’m finding my way back to the laughter and the humor, but it’s taking me a while. That I’m doing that much this soon genuinely surprises me. For the 4 or 5 or 6 months after she died, I felt as though I were betraying Ella by laughing or smiling or making smart aleck remarks. Granted, there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot to laugh about in my world, but on the rare occasion when there was, I held the laughter in. If I allowed myself to smile, I only let it show for a few seconds. It was as though finding humor in anything meant losing a bit of the sadness I was “supposed” to feel. How dare I be happy? How dare I enjoy anything anymore? How dare I smile when my sweet baby girl was gone? What the freaking heck was so funny anyhow?
My husband and I have been married for almost fifteen years. We met in college twenty years ago. Though we had a slightly rocky, on again-off again start, we managed to un-ass ourselves long enough to realize that we were much better together than we were apart, and we’ve been together ever since. We’ve never been the “look deeply into each other’s eyes” type couple. That type of behavior would probably devolve into a staring contest anyway! We’re goofballs more often than not, and one of the things we’ve always had together is laughter. In fact, the priest who married us was worried that we’d be able to make it through our nuptial Mass with straight faces because of how badly we (well…I) lost it during the rehearsal. Some women are overwhelmed by the type of emotion that causes them to cry tears of joy. Me? Not so much. My husband cracked a joke during the practice vows, and that was the end of that serious moment. Tears streamed down my face while I laughed so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I was not only doubled over but also making that endearingly charming noise I mentioned before….ah, memories.
Because my husband is much quieter and more laid-back than I am, people tend to assume that he’s very serious. Au contraire! The man has a subtle, dry wit. He’s not as willing as I am to make a complete butt of himself to get the laugh, but he totally comes up with zingers that just slay me. Just the other day, we were watching the men’s Olympic badminton match between the USA and South Korea. When the US did something good – I have no idea what...it’s badminton, for pete’s sake – I yelled out, “SUCKA!!” My husband turned to me and deadpanned, “You’re what the Olympics are all about.” He’s so awesome. My husband and his humor were the reasons why Ella’s information board got started.
Ella spent over five months in the children’s hospital. Though she wasn’t in the same room the entire time, her rooms all had one thing in common: an information board. Medical personnel could post info for patients and the patients’ families, such as doctors’ and nurses’ names, phone numbers, daily goals, etc., and patients could post notes, messages and the like. Two patient sections that we took advantage of for our own amusement and sanity were the About Me and the Questions I Have sections. And take advantage of them we did!
When Ella was hospitalized a second time, we weren’t feeling very cheery or snarky. To say that we were despondent, depressed and completely down in the freaking dumps would not do justice to how we felt. The humor we expressed previously via Ella’s info board was rooted in the hope we felt – hope for a repaired heart, hope for healing, hope for a return home with our daughter, hope for a life back to as normal as life could be with a heart kid. We had very little of that the second go around. Until we were told that Ella could be listed for a heart transplant, we had nothing but a bleak outlook and an uncertain but certainly gloomy future.
I think both my husband and I, whether intentionally or not, have always tried to encourage our boys to have good senses of humor, and do so even now. We’ll see if that comes back to bite us in the butt down the road, but until then, we like to make each other laugh and we like to laugh together as a family. I love to hear the belly laughs and the screams and squeals. Whether I’m tickling my younger son or my husband is jumping out and scaring the poo out of my older son, the laughs are loud and enthusiastic. I can’t help but join in when I hear those laughs! I love to make my husband and my sons laugh, but I really love it when they make me laugh. I especially love it when something so funny was said or done that it makes me laugh just to think of it.
Back when I had the time and inclination, I was a scrapbooker. Eventually I hope to get back to that hobby again, but it’s too depressing right now. That said, there are scrapping habits that I can’t seem to break – taking lots of pictures of both everyday life and of special events, buying (hoarding?) pretty papers and nifty paper crafting tools, and writing down the silly things that my boys say or do so that I can remember them and laugh at them later. For instance, when my older son was a toddler, he called umbrellas “rainbrellas.” I’m not sure I would have remembered that bit of cuteness if I hadn’t written it down.
I still write down things that make me smile and laugh. Even in my current mental state, I’ve had the presence of mind to write down the silly things that my boys have said that cracked me up. And even today – a day that actually started late last night when I cried myself to sleep and continued this morning when I woke up missing my sweet girl something fierce – my boys made me laugh because of their goofiness. Just by being the silly, fun kids that they are - the types of kids who invent the new Olympic sport of water judo in the front yard - they reminded me to engage rather than withdraw. They reminded me that it’s ok to laugh, to find joy even if it’s fleeting. They reminded me that silly is allowed even if it follows quickly on the heels of sorrow. They reminded me that I am so lucky.
I’m lucky because I get to have chats like this:
Me: Nice outfit. Very patriotic.11yo: No. I just did it for the US colors.
I’m lucky because I get to engage in conversations like this:
11yo (while looking at a car ad): 0% off?Me: No. 0% interest.
11yo: That means no one cares?
I’m lucky because I get to listen in on exchanges like this:
8yo: Do you think dogs are smarter than cats?11yo: Heck yeah! Have you ever heard of police cats?!
I’m lucky because my 11yo says things like, “Who are you cheering for – the Japanese or Mars?” while watching the Olympics. Because when watching a 53-year old compete on American Ninja Warrior, he exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, he has a 4-pack!” Because when only half paying attention to a commercial for Whale Wars, he remarked, “Why does it have to be whale wars? What did whales ever do to them?”
I’m lucky because my 8yo inherited my willingness to be ridiculously goofy just to get the laugh, to do crazy dances and make silly faces just to make someone smile, to find joy in making other people smile and laugh.
I’m lucky because the silly that I’ve been blessed with – the dry humor of my husband, the unintentionally funny remarks from my 11yo, the crazy antics of my 8yo – is the silly that has carried me through the darkness.
I’m lucky because I know that the silliness is really a blessing and that when God built this family, He probably used a healthy dose of silly putty to keep it together through good and bad.
I’m lucky and I’m blessed because the silly that surrounds me, the silly that makes me equal parts nuts and amused, is the silly that keeps me sane.
St. Ella, pray for us!